PASCAGOULA, Miss. -- The commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 held an all-hands call with Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) America (LHA 6), Dec. 4.
During his visit, Rear Adm. Frank Ponds also toured the ship and met with senior leadership.
"I'm so glad to be here today; I have heard many great things about this crew," said Ponds. "Everything you have done has been excellent."
Ponds credited the crew for their pride and professionalism and thanked them for setting the example from day one.
"Looking forward there are several stages still to be completed from the maintenance and training phases to finally the operation phase where you will learn how to fight and defend this ship," said Ponds.
He said that while these phases will help prepare for the future, that it is important to anticipate change.
"You have to have a warfighting mindset. Everything you do today helps prepare you for tomorrow, and there is no question that you are ready," Ponds said.
At the conclusion of the all hands call Ponds recognized Information Systems Technician (SW/IDW) Brooke Hejl for her selection as LHA-6's first Sailor of the Year and presented her with a command coin.
"I was very impressed today with the crew and the ship and can't wait for it to join the fleet next year," said Ponds.
America will be the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious ship, America will be optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter. The ship will provide flexible, multi-mission capabilities spanning from forward deployed crisis response to maritime security operations.
The ship was christened Oct. 20, 2012 and is currently undergoing construction in Pascagoula, Miss. and is scheduled for commissioning in San Francisco next year.